Losing weight is hard, but you know what’s harder? Bulking. You would think creating a caloric surplus during your bulking phase would be easy because you just eat more than burn off. That’s in theory, and most guys with muscle are going to have soaring metabolic rates. Then some bro at the gym mentions “dirty bulking,” and you are seriously considering giving it a go. But what does dirty bulking actually entail? And is dirty bulking really going to help you get the physique you want without sabotaging your health?
Here’s the dirty truth about dirty bulking.
What is Dirty Bulking?
There are two bulking methods—clean and dirty. Unlike clean bulking, dirty bulking doesn’t look at the quality of the foods you are eating. Instead, you opt to eat as much as possible, regardless of what you’re shoveling into your mouth. You don’t adhere to nutritional guidelines, and you don’t make a distinction between junk food and health food. In reality, you’re just eating without any intuition or concern.
Sounds awesome, right? Who wouldn’t want to devour pizza, cake, cookies, ice cream, chips, and sushi throughout the course of the day like The Mountain or The Rock?
Well, hold on for a moment, dude. Before you put on your sweat pants and tie your bib, let’s get the full lowdown on the dirty bulking method.
Advantages of Dirty Bulking
Yes, it’s true—the dirty bulking route is definitely going to help you put on weight. Think about it. When you’re eating clean and opt for a lean plate of salmon, broccoli, and brown rice, you’re getting around 500-600 calories a meal. That’s less than the average 546 calories in a single large slice of New Yorker pizza, and you can totally eat 3 slices, if not the whole pie. When you do the arithmetic, you realize that you can gain a lot of weight on dirty bulking, because of all those calories.
Eating whatever you want when you want is going to be fun. Imagine all the buffets and food concoctions you can sample! You can have no limits to what you can eat. Macros? What are they?
Dirty bulking is also cheap. High-calorie carries less of a price tag than healthier, cleaner options. That’s why college kids are up to their necks in Maruchan noodles and Pop Tarts, not wild-caught salmon and roasted broccoli.
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But that is where the advantages of dirty bulking ends. Yes, you gain weight. Yes, you can eat whatever you want. However, the weight you put on isn’t going to be the weight you want.
Disadvantages of Dirty Bulking
You are not going to gain muscle. On the contrary, you are going to put on fat. Moreover, you are going to destabilize your health. Processed carbohydrates are devoid of vitamins and nutrients, and those simple sugars take your blood glucose and insulin levels for a whirl. Eventually, this can lead to increase insulin resistance, meaning your body becomes less sensitive to insulin, putting you on the road to pre-diabetes. According to a 15-year study published in The Lancet, high levels of junk food make your insulin horrendous at delivering nutrients to the muscles, meaning those nutrients will be instead stored as—you guessed it—more fat.
There’s also the abundance of trans fats, chemicals, and other junk in the food that will cause a build-up of plaque in your arteries, leading to hypertension and a host of other medical conditions that are the exact opposite of getting fit.
Stunted Muscle Growth
The thing about bulking is that while you are gaining some fat mass, you also want to gain muscle, right? Junk food isn’t going to do that. The human body is complex. Simple sugars are not going to give it the energy nor the nutrients it needs to do what you want it to do. Deprive the body of chromium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients, and your muscles will be starved, leading to muscular catabolism. In other words, if you’re noshing on a pack of gummy bears post-workout instead of a protein shake, you are stunting your muscle growth.
Some food for thought: Dirty bulking feels fantastic at first. You’ve been freed from the strict diet you’ve been following and can now let loose. While that binge will elevate your serotonin levels at first, the International Journal of Obesity found that this increases the risk of becoming addicted to fatty food, which is only going to lessen your motivation and transform you into a couch potato.
If that wasn’t enough, another study from the University of New South Wales in Australia concluded that a high amount of processed foods will hamper your cognitive abilities. One part of cognition is willpower. Motivation. With your motivation being held for ransom by Twinkies and Doritos, you won’t have the self-control to put down the snacks and get to the weight room to workout.
Bulking Alternatives That Aren’t Dirty
Sorry to take the fun out of the whole dirty bulking thing, but there’s a reason it’s called “dirty.” The only thing dirty bulking gets right is the calorie consumption, but the quality of the calories, as well as what the food does to your physiology is wrong. You want to focus on a surplus created by quality nutrients to help your body fuel itself properly and grow muscle. Choose the traditional weight gainer shakes or use natural nut butters, oatmeal, milks, avocado and olive oil. Eat more meals throughout the day, too.
And remember, a cheat meal here and there isn’t going to hurt you—making it a routine will. You are trying to get stronger, not fatter and weaker. Separate yourself from the bros at the gym and come out a top contender by eating clean and bulking smart.
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